Turkish cuisine is famous for it’s delicious ‘meze’ dishes. You know, those little sampler plates of cold and hot starters served before the main meal? Whether you decide to eat meat or fish, there is always a set of ‘meze’ plates to match. One of the most beloved Turkish ‘meze’ dishes served with seafood fare is cold octopus salad, or ‘ahtapot salatasi’ (ah-tah-POT’ sah-lah-tah-SUH’).
This salad is made with tender bits of cooked octopus tossed together with tomato, green olives, fresh herbs and a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. That’s all you need to let the taste and texture of the octopus to shine through.
Preparing octopus salad the traditional way can be difficult and time-consuming. To soften the flesh of freshly-caught octopus, it’s usually pounded back and forth on a hard surface for a long time. Then the tough membranes are removed and the octopus is cleaned. Only then is the flesh ready to cook.
Even in Turkey, most people don’t have the time or the ability to go through this part of the preparation, so octopus salad is usually enjoyed in restaurants serving fish and seafood.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a fresh fish market that can supply you with already-tenderized and cleaned octopus, you can follow this recipe for Turkish octopus salad and make it at home. You may also be able to find frozen octopus at your supermarket. Octopus cooks up the best using a pressure cooker, but you can also boil it if you have a lot of patience. Give it a try and experience Turkish ‘meze’ at it’s best.